It may be a while before dance floors are packed again. But music remains a priority for couples, even when hosting intimate socially distanced weddings and celebrations in person or via video conferencing apps and platforms. Hiring a D.J. for your reception — even a virtual one — offers several advantages.
A great D.J. will often start planning a mix of songs well before the event. “It’s about creating a soundtrack that highlights their vision,” said Arman Naféei, a Los Angeles-based D.J. whose recent gigs include Gwyneth Paltrow’s wedding to Brad Falchuk. “We’ll have a conversation where I’ll ask about vibe and style, their favorite music, and take that all into consideration.”
The ability to adjust a set to the crowd is one of the upsides to hiring a D.J. “You never know how things will flow,” said William Grand, a D.J. based in Manhattan. “I prefer to have my music meticulously organized so I can react rather than sticking to a predetermined script.” Mr. Grand’s clients include the actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Bill Murray, as well fashion brands like Versace and publications like Vogue.
There are tunes, though that always seem to get guests dancing, regardless of demographics. “These songs have stood the test of time,” said Lindsey Caldwell, a D.J. based in Brooklyn who created the mix for the wedding of the actors America Ferrera and Ryan Piers Williams. “They satisfy the tastes of multiple generations of people who don’t all share the same background.”
Here are some of the tracks that D.J.s keep in their back pockets to get the party started.
DJ Lindsey, Lindsey Caldwell, Brooklyn
“I love to do a mini ’90s set at weddings. ‘No Scrubs’ is recognized by most guests after those first four notes and creates the best singalong moments, which make for amazing photos.”
“I like my weddings to feel like a house party and ‘Calabria’ is a nice surprise during prime dance floor time. Anyone can figure out a little two step or just jump in place to it.”
“I typically play this one toward the end of the night once people have had a nice warm up (and a splash of liquid courage). It’s always fun to see folks’ reactions both on the dance floor and on the sidelines when it all goes down.”
“One of Benny Goodman’s biggest songs, it’s unexpected and has a great buildup and catchy drums. When the horns come in it creates an energy that touches everybody and usually inspires everyone to start swinging around.”
“It starts high right away, so it’s the perfect song to mix in. It’s also positive and energetic, an upper that makes people joyful.”
Kimberly Venetz, DJ Alkimist, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Manhattan
“Don’t sleep on dance hall! This song gives people an opportunity to get sexy on the dance floor.”
“Whether I play the original version by Frankie Beverly or Beyoncé’s cover depends on the crowd, but no one can resist singing, ‘Before I let you goooooo’.”
“It’s fun and light, and gets people up and going.”
“It’s one of those songs that just gets bigger every year, probably because of the joyous vibe and killer vocal sample by Etta James the older generation knows.”
“After all these years, it’s still a good club-feel track that brings people together on the dance floor, and one guests love to sing along with. I’ve closed the night with this tune a few times and wound up having the dance floor chanting ‘one more song!’ after the music stopped.”
“As soon as the horn riff hits, you can hear the crowd cheer and see the energy lift. This song sits in a good mid-tempo pocket and because it was sampled by Trick Daddy for ‘Take It To Da House,’ it resonates with young and old.”
“Your grandmother knows the words to this song. So does your bridal party. The call and response of the chorus lends itself to a great interaction for guests. It’s also a great transition song to move in any direction.”
Tom “Doc Delay” Shiner and DJ Abby Klein, Play Something Good, Dallas and Manhattan
“This is a fun, self-love power anthem with a dance hall feel. It mixes well with throwback hip-hop, so it’s also versatile,” Ms. Klein said.
“C’mon. Try not to dance,” Mr. Shiner said.
“This song crosses three generations but avoids sounding played out like some other classics,” Mr. Shiner said.
“It’s very appropriate for a wedding because it evokes celebration, love, fate, and it’s romantic but up-tempo,” Ms. Klein said.
“It’s one of the most influential disco records of all time. It was released in the late ’70s but still sounds modern, even futuristic, to me.”
“I always get a great response when I play this one. It’s reminiscent of a classic Depeche Mode track, but with supermodern dance music production.”
“I play a mix of the original and an edit that has more low end to it. It works well with all ages and when the a cappella break hits, it’s like taking everyone to church.”
“He’s had an impressive run over the past decade and this Lauryn Hill sampled song always gets people going.”
“This Motown song wins the slow dance award. Everyone knows it within the first few seconds and I like that it allows people to slow down and get a bit more intimate.”
“The drums and bass on this Afrobeats track are enough to make anyone move. Whether or not you understand Rema’s lyrics, which are a combination of English and several Nigerian dialects, his melodies and vocal cadences are catchy enough to get you to try and sing along.”
“An up-tempo Rihanna song? Who’s not going to dance to it? D.J. mOma and Guy Furious did a great job with the Afrobeats remix.”